Service Dogs, Inc. of Austin, Texas

My Perfect Life

By Richard Lopez Peralta

In 2010, I came from the Dominican Republic where I was born and raised.  I became a US Citizen in February, 2020!

I am a barber/cosmetologist.  I live with my wife and father-in-law. I have always loved dogs but was not able to have many pets when I was a child.  My wife and I have always had cats, and we are so happy now to have the amazing, Beyla, thanks to Service Dogs, Inc.

I was born with a hearing impairment that was never officially diagnosed until I came to the United States. It has been a challenge my whole life to understand what others were saying, to communicate without misunderstandings, and to feel comfortable in my surroundings. Although I was able to get hearing aids once I got to the U.S., they do not resolve everything.  It is hard to control feedback, they cause headaches, wax problems and earaches, and sometimes cause more stress than I have when I don’t use them.

There were many times at work in the past that people have misunderstood me and what kind of person I am. For example, if they call my name and I don’t hear it, they thought I was intentionally ignoring them, unfriendly, hateful, etc. This would affect me emotionally because people would start treating me badly without understanding that I never meant to ignore them or treat them poorly. When I was studying in cosmetology and barber school, there were times when other students would make fun of me, thinking I was not smart or had some other kind of problem when it was really just my hearing problem. There were times when I would lose my temper because I was so frustrated with other people around me, and then everything just got worse.

I’ve always wanted a dog, but when I learned that there are dogs that can help me with my hearing problem, I was so happy. I didn’t know how much having a hearing dog would help me, but now I do.

I did not know there was such a thing as a “hearing dog” until one day when my wife and I saw someone who had a service dog and then we noticed his hearing aids. We were in a fast food restaurant and he was ahead of us in line. He gave the cashier his name, and when his order was ready they called his name and his dog alerted him! After that my wife started investigating and she came across Service Dogs, Inc. online and was so impressed with everything they do. She surprised me on my birthday with an application for a hearing dog. Best birthday gift ever.

I was completely overwhelmed when I met Beyla. I have always loved dogs but this was something so much more special. It was matching day and there were three dogs that I met and they were all so great. The staff asked me afterwards which one I felt most comfortable with, and I was so overwhelmed, I really didn’t know how to answer. I did feel something special about Beyla.  Anyway, the staff is so good at SDI that they ultimately made the perfect decision to match me with Beyla. Her high energy and enthusiasm for people is perfect for me. I can’t even imagine having a different dog.

The entire experience – from application process to certification process – has been wonderful. The SDI staff is amazing; the most kind, helpful, and understanding people. They are really good at what they do, and they know exactly how to help with any little glitch or problem during training. The process is challenging and sometimes overwhelming, but they understand that and make it as smooth as possible.

During this pandemic, Beyla has helped me so much at home. We have mostly been sheltering in place for a long time in order to protect my 96-year-old father-in-law. I do not like to use my hearing aids at home, so Beyla alerts me if my wife calls me from the other room, or even more important, if my father-in-law calls me. She lets me know if someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, and she leads me to wherever the sound is. Luckily we haven’t had the smoke alarm go off for any reason, but I feel so much safer knowing that she will let me know about that too if it happens. When I am able to go back to work as a barber, she will help me tremendously. With all of the buzz of razors and blow dryers and music playing, etc. I cannot use hearing aids at work. If the receptionist calls my name to take a walk-in, I won’t hear it, but Beyla will let me know.

The biggest change in my life now that Beyla is with me is that I can feel secure and not constantly be wondering if there is something happening around me that I am not aware of.  I no longer have that uneasy feeling that I have had my entire life.

This is a huge, huge change and I never thought I could feel this way. Besides that, though, she is a wonderful companion! I love to play with her and she inspires me by waking up to a new day so happy every single day.

My wife and father-in-law love Beyla as much as I do, and they are so happy for me. Although they have always treated me well (!), I can see that they get less frustrated now because I am responding when they need  me.  When I go places with Beyla there is a difference, too. Before people would not realize I had a hearing impairment, so they would get frustrated if I wasn’t responding to a question or understanding it – but now that they see a service dog, they are more likely to be patient with me, even though they may not understand why I have her or in what way she helps me.

In general the biggest change is that I feel safer and calmer in any environment, and I feel like I have a better chance of establishing good relationships with other people.

I’d like to say thank you to anyone who has helped with this effort, from the bottom of my heart, for being so generous with your personal finances, to help people like me, in this world that is so complicated and even more so with hearing problems. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to know a new world, more peaceful and safer, knowing that Beyla is by my side to hear for me and keep me calm and safe. This gift is priceless. Mil gracias.

Beyla would like to say

“Thank you SDI for matching me with Richie! I have a wonderful family, I earn food every day, and they buy me toys and sometimes they even let me destroy them! I get to walk and run and be by Richie’s side all day every day.

Thank you!!!”